Dear Helen…

Dear Helen

What a rollercoaster ride these past 3 months have been.  After holding you in the highest esteem of all political leaders, to vehemently disagree (and, in some way, agree) with you on such a contentious issue as colonialism has been painful, confusing, and, in many ways, a watershed moment in my personal political development.

See, I agree with you that the vestiges of colonialism can be used to develop the communities that it disadvantaged. But, even in the tiniest of inclinations, to assert that colonialism wasn’t all bad was a gigantic error of judgement.

As someone who was disadvantaged by colonialism, that hurt.

Badly.

You may not remember me, but I’ve had the privilege of having a few private conversations with you, the first being at our final dinner of the DA Young Leaders Program of 2008. In that brief chat, I was totally enthralled by what it took for you to get where you were at that time, and where you are today.

Back then, you were the mayor of Cape Town. The next year, you became the Premier of the Western Cape. What remained constant in these leadership positions was your untiring zeal to better the lives of everyone, through cogent policy positions and effective service delivery.

And it’s been wonderful to watch, as well as to be a benefactor of such leadership. Even today, after all the attention of yesterday, you chair a provincial executive meeting in Knysna and enact a strategy to help the people of the region recover from the devastating fires of last week. Your willingness to be on the ground as quickly as possible shows a level of compassionate, collaborative leadership that is sorely missing from the wider political discourse in our country (The fact that there hasn’t been any coverage of any senior national government officials visiting the area speaks volumes).

And we cannot lose that quality leadership, especially not now. This is why I fully agree that keeping you as Premier is the right thing to do. We need to show the electorate that even when we have vastly different views, we still put the needs of the people of South Africa first.

Moreover, there’s a generation of leaders after you that will do very well if we were half the leader you are. As written in your book, you leave a legacy of fighting for what’s right, speaking truth to power, and helping to better the lives of others. And it would be a travesty if that legacy were not to be continued through others that come after you.

In our most recent conversation on the occasion of a radio interview publicising your book, you mentioned that after your term as Premier ends, you’d like to spend the rest of your time in the party raising up and developing a new generation of activists. I sincerely hope that you will be afforded that opportunity, as our nation will benefit greatly from your expertise and experience.

I would be honoured if I could be one of those activists to sit at your feet and learn from you.

After all, the political transition in this country will happen ‘Not without a fight’. And who else to learn from than someone who’s been fighting, and winning, all her life.

Helen Zille and the Disorder of Things

So, the saga of the Helen Zille colonialism tweets will finally be brought before the DA’s Disciplinary Committee this week. Quite frankly, the fact that this saga has been drawn out over nearly 3 months, and the struggle between the current DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, and Zille, the former leader, has yielded nothing but damage to the party. Last weekend’s process faux pax, coupled with Zille’s continued legal delays did not sit well with those on social media, and everyone, either inside or outside the party, have taken sides. Unless a collaborative solution is found to this mess (which, I fear, will not be the case), one side will undoubtedly lose hard.

But, back to the tweets in question. Just about all the political commentators worth following in this country have slammed Helen for her tweets, calling them insensitive to the country’s ugly and horrific past. And I must agree with them. The book, Diamonds Gold and War by Martin Meredith, outlines in painstaking and heartbreaking detail just how colonialism from the British and the Boers decimated the African population, the effects of which we still very much experience today. And even though she repeatedly has said that it was not her intention to glorify colonialism in any way, that’s what unfortunately the perception turned out to be.

However, she does have a point. Like Nelson Mandela and many of our history textbook authors have said, some of the vestiges of colonialism left behind can be used to improve the lives of those who were disadvantaged by the system.

But here’s the point of departure. We, as South African society, are nowhere close to the point where we can debate this issue rationally and collaboratively to attain the outcomes that Helen wished that we attain. While Singapore might have successfully converted colonialism to its benefit, there are FAR too many differences between our situation and theirs. The first natural point that should come to mind is the widening gap between rich and poor. There can be absolutely no doubt that this a direct consequence of the cruel system set in place in the 19th century, and we cannot talk about reversing colonialism without first addressing our gini coefficient head on.

And herein, I believe, lies the crux of the differences between Maimane and Zille. Mmusi has directed the focus on the party squarely on, among others, building an inclusive economy by job creation. This future-orientated strategy is in direct contrast to Zille, who wants to look to the past to find solutions to the future.

The unfortunate reality of this situation is that these 2 views are so divergent that there is little hope of attaining a common ground that transcends the foundation of each view. And since, Helen still has a significant following in the party, coupled with her stubborn defense of her views and Mmusi’s duty to stamp his authority on the matter, the disciplinary hearing can only be seen as a dogfight between these 2 leaders.

This, of course, could not have come at a worse time for the party. The news leaks of the Gupta family influencing a plethora of government ministers and officials through email communication (commonly known as the #GuptaEmails) should have been cannon fodder for the DA to twist the knife into the chest of the ANC parliamentary caucus, ahead of the motion of no confidence to be heard once the legal challenges to whether it should be a secret ballot or not is concluded. But, alas, we focus on a leadership struggle of our own, thereby letting the ANC off the hook and compromising our position, momentarily, on corruption.

One thing is for sure, though. Helen Zille is no racist. In her book, Not without a Fight, she magnificently outlines her life, from a trace of her family roots in Nazi Germany, to her struggle with anorexia, her journalism career, her vital role in the struggle against apartheid and her subsequent career in the Democratic Alliance. It’s clear that her legacy is one of struggle, and victory, for freedom and opportunity for all.

But, because of this current matter, I fear her legacy is under serious threat. Max du Preez, in his latest column, calls on Helen to graciously step away from this last fight in order to preserve her legacy and retire. While I agree with his first point, I think she should be allowed to complete her term as Premier of the Western Cape, and then do what she has said she wanted to do; raise up a new crop of leaders and activists for the party.

It’s in the interest of all involved, as well as the nation. And this, essentially, is what Helen Zille is all about.

An uncomfortable Truth…

So, President Jacob Zuma has survived another attack on his presidency this past weekend. It appears that he still holds the majority within the NEC, and that the circle of patronage he has built around his relationship with the Guptas will continue unabated. Hence he has captured both the ANC and the State and the looting will continue….

But for how much longer?

There are 3 factors that influence the answer to that question. The first is the news that broke over this past weekend (Just before when the NEC was to debate the motion for the president to step down) of the extent of the influence that the Gupta family holds over cabinet ministers and SOE board appointments. The various email exchanges prove that the Guptas cast a gigantically ominous cloud over the president and his cabinet, a cloud which Zuma has allowed to envelope him. The fallout to this revelation has been swift, with the family issuing a blanket denial of wrongdoing, and the official opposition Democratic Alliance, quite rightly, laying criminal charges against the president and his cabinet. How the charges will be actioned by the National Prosecuting Authority remains to be seen, but this heaps even more pressure on the president, caused by the other 783 corruption charges that are still under review by the justice system. However, as the NPA has already been captured by the president, you can expect the investigation to be drawn out as far as possible.

The second factor is Zuma’s uncharacteristic threat to his detractors in the NEC not to ‘push him too far’. As reports indicate, the president sat quietly during the debate on Saturday as to whether the motion should be put on the agenda, and then again he was silent during the actual debate. This, of course, is classic Zuma behaviour when his leadership is called into question, both within the ANC and in parliament. However, after surviving the motion, he reportedly addressed the meeting very angrily, saying,

“I have been quiet because I don’t want to harm the ANC, so continue attacking me in the media and you will see.”

What’s more is that while addressing the meeting, he reportedly wagged his finger at his detractors. Now, those of us who are old enough to remember, that finger-wagging characterised PW Botha’s last days as president, before he was ousted as National Party Leader, which ultimately started the process of the dismantling of apartheid and the dawn of democracy. This angry outburst is very much unlike Zuma and shows that he is now feeling the pressure and is losing grip on his own plan to loot the state (which, we all hope, precipitates the beginning of the end of his disastrous tenure as president).

Finally, as reported very recently, he is hemorrhaging support within the ANC, with 62% of ANC voters disapproving of him. Quite naturally, this comes in the light of further evidence of ‘State Capture’ mounting against him, and the growing discontent with the lack of service delivery, rising unemployment and a dwindling economy. With the upcoming National Elective Conference this December, more senior members within the party are beginning to distance themselves from him. This also puts his plans of transferring power to his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma so as to continue the pattern of patronage and capture, while keeping him out of prison. While he, no doubt, will endeavour to fill the conference with sympathisers to his cause, it is clear that the party is growing more and more concerned with the national fallout coming from his incompetent presidency and his relationship with the Guptas.

The uncomfortable truth is that, while he continues to survive using his wily skills and extensive array of pawns within cabinet and the SOE’s, he is increasingly being painted into a corner, and eventually, something will have to give. Should he succeed in his succession plan at the conference, he faces the prospect of a complete desertion by ANC voters, and the ANC losing power in 2019. Should he not succeed, he faces the prospect of his party deserting him to the opposition and ending up in prison.

His only remaining trump card will be the secrets he holds on his fellow comrades. And if he plays that card next year, he will take his party down with him.

More and more, it appears that this might be his only hope…

The non-existent Democracy in rural South Africa

One of the headline-grabbing stories in South Africa right now is the murder trial of Pieter Doorewaard and Philip Schutte in the town of Coligny, in the North West Province. They are accused of killing 16 year-old Motlhomola Mosweu. The men, in their bail application, say that the boy accidentally fell off the back of their bakkie while they were taking him to the police station to reported his alleged theft.

Shenaaz Jamal gives us a brief, yet poignant, insight into the racism and discrimination that still is prevalent in the town, as well as a background to the case. You can read it here

Now, just last weekend, I went to the town of Piketberg for an overnight stay. Now, granted, staying in a town for 1 night barely gives one an insight as to the state of affairs there, and I plan to go back and spend a weekend there. But, driving along the main road and going into the coloured part of town, one cannot help but wonder if towns like these will ever transform into the inclusive society that Mandela and the rest of the authors of our democracy envisioned. And while the discrimination might not be as raw in Piketberg as that in Coligny (although the people I stayed with complained about racism in the customer service at one of the local banks), racism and racial prejudice is unfortunately all too common in small town South Africa.

Couple that with the high unemployment rate, and the shocking levels of abuse (abuse against women, alcohol and drugs being the main sources), and we have a ticking time bomb just about all over the country.

The over-arching question is this; what is the government going to do in order to reverse the legacy of Apartheid in rural South Africa?

My contestation is, that after 23 years of freedom, this government doesn’t have a clue, and quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered with it.

The reason for me saying so is that, in my experience of working for a company with a base in a town, as well as the examples above, there are too many instances around the country to highlight the fact that relations between different races have degenerated the further we have gone into democracy. And while there are shining examples of reconciliation and trust-building between farmers and their workers, these are unfortunately overshadowed by the rising rate of farm murders, as well as instances such as the current Coligny murder case. Last year’s Coffin case in Middelburg is another such incident.

Race relations in towns are making the instances of racial discrimination in the urban areas look like a Sunday School picnic, and that is a very worrying trend. Given that the latest buzzword in the halls of power is Radical Economic Transformation, has the government, and especially the president, clearly articulated what it will mean for the inhabitants of towns such as Graaf-Reinet, Ashton, Piketberg and Coligny? Because, if not, they might just be adding fuel to the fire, and cause even greater divides where it is not needed.

Any attempt at nation-building will have to focus on the glaring racial divides in the rural areas, which is a monumental task. However, if we are to be a united nation, then we all must be allowed to air our grievances, and work toward the unity envisaged 23 years ago.

The road is still long…

#NeneGate 1 year on…

It’s been a year since #NeneGate happened.

President Jacob Zuma. in a stunning attempt to capture the treasury, dismissed the Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and replaced him with the relatively unknown Des Van Rooyen. It is now known that the latter had visited the Gupta family for 7 consecutive days before his appointment, and the president – his ties to the Gupta family being undeniable – knew this. On that fateful Thursday, the economy took its biggest 1 day hit since the dawn of democracy, even eclipsing the fallout of the September 11 attacks and the 2008 Credit Crisis.

Thankfully, the heavy pressure, from all players, that followed this turn of events caused the president to reverse his decision, and reinstate Pravin Gordhan as Finance Minister just 4 days later. The economy has since held its own, and we have managed to evade a sovereign downgrade in the last 12 months under the Finance Minister’s leadership. This, of course, over and above the constant attempts to remove him through spurious means.

But, 1 year on, #NeneGate gave us an insight into how desperately the President wants to capture the state, and it gives us an indication of what is to come.

For one, his audacious move showed his hand in attempting to capture every part of the state in order to satisfy his every whim. He must have known that replacing the competent minister with someone who has had a poor track record in local government would have badly affected the markets. Yet, he acted as if this was a perfectly justifiable appointment, given the replacement’s academic credentials.

But the severe backlash in the days that followed demonstrated to the president that his power is not unfettered, and that the citizens are slowly taking an active role in holding him and his party to account. This was further evident in the poor showing of the ANC in August’s local government elections, and the losing of 3 key metros to the Democratic Alliance.

However, it doesn’t appear to look like the president has learnt from this lesson. Just over 3 months after #NeneGate, the Constitutional Court ruled against him in the matter of the usage of public funds for non-security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. Given the fact that he knew of these upgrades, any leader worth his or her salt would admit to this grave error and resign.

But not our Jacob. On April 1, he stood up in front of the nation and gave what at best can be described as a crass apology. He managed to find the nearly R8 million he has to pay back, but even how he managed to secure a loan that big is shrouded in secrecy.

And it is these events that give us an indication of what might come. Very recently, the president survived a motion of no confidence from the National Executive Committee of the ANC (which I wrote about here), and this will surely empower him to act mercilessly against his detractors within the ANC and embolden his attempts to capture the last remaining vestagess of the state, thereby ensuring his political survival.

He is sure to use the ANC annual anniversary celebration, the January 8 statement, to outline just how he plans to enrich himself using the ANC, and then use the remaining part of January to position his pawns in the executive to key positions, as well as ejecting his naysayers from the cabinet. Finally, in the run up to the State of the Nation address in February, he will ensure that state institution heads will toe his line, thereby confirming his supposedly iron-clad grip on the state, to the detriment of the poor.

The chorus of opposition, in civil society, in the opposition benches in the National Assembly, and the veterans within the ANC, will continue to rise, and bring the nation to a watershed moment. And over the next 12 months, these 2 forces will heighten the battle royal for the soul of the nation.

There is an apt saying from the Cape Flats, “When 2 killers meet, one must die”. Let’s hope that democracy prevails, so that the struggle ensuring a better life for all South Africans can continue.

If Zuma goes…

Currently the African National Congress’s (ANC) highest decision making body outside of its elective congress, the National Executive Committee (NEC) is meeting for the final time in 2016.

The meeting was scheduled to conclude yesterday, but due to a surprise motion to ask the president to step down, the meeting has gone into an extra day.

Now according to this report, 3 ministers led calls to either ask the president to step down, or for the NEC to remove him. All indications are that the motion was voted down. However, the fact that the meeting is still continuing implies that the issue still lingers.

Never before has the president being backed into this big a corner. His many failings (the Constitutional Court ruling against him, the 783 corruption charges that most likely will be reinstated, his relationship with the Gupta family, the implications of the Public Protector’s ‘State of Capture Report’ etc) point to him being in a more desperate situation than ever before.

This makes him wounded, and as before, doubtless he will paint himself as the victim of a conspiracy, claiming that he has done nothing wrong. (The precedent here is when he didn’t see anything wrong with the state paying for non-security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead). However, if his supporters in the NEC rally around him and the motion is voted down, he will go on the offensive like never before.

Let’s remember that this is a president who. for the duration of his term in office – and until he vacates the Union Buildings – has done nothing but try to exploit the state to his own ends to the detriment of the citizens of the country and the constitution he swore to uphold. And after the ANC’s dismal performance in the 2016 Local Government elections, he now is at the helm of a divided cabinet, and a clearly fractured NEC.

Everything points to the sad reality that he will not seek to bridge the divisions of the party and his cabinet, but rather to use it to his advantage to advance his goal of a total capture of state institutions. No doubt he pressured the current Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to lay charges against her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, over the leaking of an audiotape of a four-hour interview she had with President Jacob Zuma with regard to her report. And this is only the latest in a long line of attempts to capture state institutions.

If Jacob Zuma survives today, and I think he will, but only just, he will feel emboldened and continue unfettered in seeking to destroy his enemies within the party. Most likely, he will start with a show of strength at the ANC’s January 8 statement, and follow it up with a cabinet reshuffle, thereby sidelining his detractors and strengthening his grip on the party and state.

His recent utterances in the Parliamentary Question and Answer session about the politicisation of sovereign downgrades indicate that he has no intention of stimulating the economy and he has little understanding of, nor willingness to, attract foreign direct investment. Add to this his constant fight to remove the Minister of Finance through spurious means, and it’s clear that the economy will deteriorate immensely, the longer he stays in power.

If, however, he is ousted, it will not signal the end of the capture of the state. Those clinging on to him for their spot at the trough will no doubt continue to defend their positions, which will lead to further infighting in the ANC, which will yield even more looting of the state.

All of this will come at the expense of job creation, economic growth and building of a capable state. This will put the country in a more precarious position, and a downward spiral, affecting the poor the most.

And whether he goes or not, the poor will not be better off, and it’s only a matter of time before this class stands up to him like never before. And that might be the point of no return for Jacob Zuma, and quite possibly, the ANC.

Swing wide the gates of Africa

After Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the US election this week, everyone (and I mean everyone!) is waiting with bated breath to see what policies he will implement when he comes into office next January.

If he stays true to his campaign promises (and let’s hope he doesn’t), then America will almost certainly close ranks, both diplomatically and economically, which will mean fewer opportunities for emerging markets.

And like this Destiny Man article proposes, the details – which Trump was light on, during the campaign – will be vital, especially to African countries with regard to AGOA, and if this partnership will continue in its current form.

So, what then of African growth and development in the face of a US gradual (or quick) withdrawal?

Well, our collective dependence on China has shown that putting our economic eggs in one basket is a very risky policy. Many African countries, due in chief to the steep, steady decrease in commodity prices, have suffered material losses in forex reserves, thereby hampering trade drastically. In one of my previous jobs, our exports into Angola and Nigeria were hardest hit due to import regulations constantly changing as a result of loss of available liquidity. The knock on effect, of course, was VERY slow customs clearance (which widens the opportunity for corruption, naturally), inflated demurrage bills, and a slow-down in sales due to the unavailability of product.

BUT, the point is, growth in Intra-Africa trade is still possible, and as the continent’s largest economy, we should be driving force in the African Economic Resurgence.

As it is, South Africa is already providing the stimulus for various sectors, like Retail (with Shoprite leading the way), Cellular (MTN), FMCG (Tiger Brands) and Agriculture (many of our farmers now ploughing the fields of Central Africa). Another field where South Africa can lead the way is fostering small business development through the use of technology. There are many IT geniuses who are developing apps that help the rural entrepreneur growing his or her business, and the export of this particular service can grow African economies immensely.

And because the rest of Africa is expanding off a low base, growth in the continent can be considered to be exponential, if it is governed by a coherent vision, strong policy implementation, and effective management.

And this is where the fundamental shift must happen. Africa’s history is beset by the ‘Big Man’ phenomenon, which has only caused accumulation of wealth to the elite, rampant corruption, and a systematic breakdown of economies. However dire this may sound, a vision of open markets amongst ourselves will give rise to greater growth. Strengthening of Intra-Africa trade agreements and blocs, such as SADC and ECOWAS, will foster greater cooperation between countries, and go a long way toward fostering lasting, fruitful economic partnerships.

This can only be done by a government committed to:

1. A vision of an open economy, where everyone has a right to access opportunity
2. Policies that foster trade amongst African countries e.g. Free movement of goods and services within SADC
3. Effective management of trade, decreasing corruption, and stimulating growth

The present Department of Trade and Industry, in conjunction with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation must work together to see that the vision of African growth, by Africa itself, is realised.

We should be at the vanguard of African growth. Is this government up for it?

The Real Fight for Economic Freedom

Later today, Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan will table the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in the National Assembly. Normally, this is a virtual ‘run-of-the-mill’ speech, where the ministers gives an update on the budget speech he tabled in February this year, and what to expect in the budget speech of next year.

However, this speech will have a far greater importance. Between now and the next budget speech, there are a number of significant events that must be addressed in order to keep the economy afloat.

The first is the protests for fee-free higher education, commonly known as #FeesMustFall. These protesters will be outside the gates of parliament as the minister delivers his speech, and it will be interesting to see how the minister will address their demands, if he can at all. Providing free higher education is estimated to cost R20 billion, as provided by STATS SA here.  It is difficult to see how the Minister will be able to cover the tuition fees, and further, the fee payment structure and the income streams of the universities will have to change, in order to accommodate this demand.

Further to this, the second (and knock-on) event will be student enrollment. If tuition fees are to be subsidised by the government, tertiary institutions will have less money at their disposal and hence will have to cut costs. One of those measure would be to curtail student enrollment (this would also be due to students finishing the 2016 year in 2017, causing less availability for the 2017 class). However, this might aid the higher education system, as in its current form, it is grossly inefficient. There are 400 000 (40%) more students in the system than it can handle, and when taking natural attrition into consideration, it’s still too much for the system to accommodate. The minister will need help from the higher education ministry in addressing this problem. Let’s hope he gets all the help he needs.

The third, and possibly most important, big event will be the revised outlook on our economy by credit ratings agencies in December. We managed to dodge a ratings downgrade in June of this year, and the minister has made every effort to avoid the same at the end of the year.

However, he has not been helped by various diversions, and not by his own doing.

Firstly, the fraud case brought against him by the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks. Every learned legal mind in the country has said that the charges are frivolous, weak and politically motivated at best. However, this move by the NPA will only be seen in a negative light by the ratings agencies and will not aid the cause of economic growth and freedom. The case is due to be in court on November 2, and I am sure that the minister will be vindicated.

Secondly, the increase in violence in the #FeesMustFall protests. The torching of cars and buildings has now overshadowed the foundation of the protest, and it is now losing popularity in the public eye. Clearly those behind the violence seek to bring the higher education system to a complete standstill, which can only stall the economy, and obliterate the chance for sustained economic growth.

Finally, the other projects that government want to execute will also need attention. Chief among these are the Nuclear build program, and the rehabilitation of South African Airways. The nuclear build program is expect to cost R1 trillion, while SAA will need at least R5 billion to stay afloat. The minister will have to decide whether these projects take precedence over poverty alleviation and job creation.

The destruction of the economic through physical and intrinsic means cannot be allowed, and the minister has to juggle these matters with the real fight for economic freedom, which affects the poor the most.

How is this to be done?  Firstly, he has to continue removing obstacles to investment, by continuing to liaise with the business community, and implementing investment-friendly policies, as well as labour reform.

Secondly, fight the NPA and the Hawks in court. This should yield a resounding victory, which will further vindicate his stance against corruption, and solidify his status as the gatekeeper to the public purse.

Finally, on corruption, continue to seek answers on the questionable transactions of the Gupta family business. This family has sought to capture the state through the president, and they must be stopped if true economic freedom in South Africa is to be realised.

#FeesMustFall – What it’s really about

Currently, South Africa’s Higher Education System is gripped by violent protests from students demanding, among others, free higher education for all. These protests are a continuation of the same protests in October 2015, as it is in October when fee increases are negotiated for the following year.

As with last year, the main demands of the protesters were, and still are :

  • Free higher education for all students
  • The decolonisation of higher education
  • The abolition of outsourcing of workers in state institutions of higher learning

Unlike last year, however, we have seen the protests take a violent turn as they dragged on, with widespread violence being reported across the country’s universities, with its the main focus being the University of Witwatersrand in Gauteng, UCT and UWC in the Western Cape, and UKZN in Kwazulu-Natal. Furthermore, threats of violence against non-protesting students have increased dramatically. Social media posts (especially through messages and voice notes on WhatsApp) that threaten grievous harm to person and property to anyone, academic or student, are widely circulated. This puts anyone’s lives who tries to continue the academic program in grave danger, and the prospect of normality on the nation’s campuses virtually non-existent.

Notwithstanding the police’s (and university management’s) response to the protests through the use of crowd control (Stun grenades and rubber bullets etc.), these protests have taken a turn which has become eerily comparable to past strikes of municipal workers against their employer of the past few years. The violence and destruction used in both these forms of protests are strikingly similar, which begs the question :

What are the #FeesMustFall protests really about?

The protests have become less about the foundational  aspects of higher education funding, and more about an abhorrent student uprising, with a view to destabilising a critical state institution and bringing the nation’s economy to a grinding halt.

Because make no mistake, if these protests cause the loss of the academic year, that’s exactly what will happen. The economy will be robbed of an intake of skilled graduates into various sectors, and this decrease in skills will negatively affect output and productivity across the board. And while, we can debate the quality of degrees issued by some of our universities, in this case, it is abundantly clear that some education is better than no education.

The fact that the protesting students wish to draw similarities between their actions and that of the student uprisings in the days of the struggle against apartheid would be the main justification for the destruction of campus infrastructure across the country. This, however, is a fatal comparison, as the resources required to repair the damage (currently conservatively estimated at R600 million), will only serve to hinder the government’s ability to provide for free higher education, even if it could in the first place.

Moreover, the students must be getting help from outside sources. Where would they get the funds required to bus them in from townships, the money required to buy human faeces to spread on campus grounds and legal support for those who have fallen foul of the law? The most plausible answer must be from organisations who have clearly communicated their objective to overthrow the government through violent means on whatever platform is available.

We can only hope that the leaders of this movement regain control of the direction of these protests, see the lasting negative consequences of their actions, and seek to continue their action in a manner that would benefit their cause, and add to the goal of reaching economic freedom for all South Africans, in the best way possible.